'This Week' Transcript: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Look, the biggest problem confronting the country is not taxes. It's -- it's spending. We don't have this problem because we tax too little; we have it because we spend too much. We now have a $16.4 trillion national debt, as big as our economy. That alone makes us look a lot like Greece. This administration has driven spending from 21 percent of our economy up to almost 25 percent of our economy. We've got to stop using the credit card. And any opportunity we have to engage the other side in a discussion about quitting the spending spree, we're going to engage in.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the question is, how will you follow through on your strategy? And, you know, there are -- a lot of your allies are worried about the -- about that prospect. The Wall Street Journal editorial page said the political result will be far worse if Republicans start this fight only to cave in the end. You can't take a hostage you aren't prepared to shoot. Do the two GOP leaders have a better strategy today than they did in 2011?

And I guess, you know, you're hearing that phrase more and more now, shoot the hostage. Are you prepared to do it, to see the country default, if the president won't sign the spending cuts you demand?

MCCONNELL: Well, look, it's not even necessary to get to that point. Why aren't we trying to settle the problem? Why aren't we trying to do something about reducing spending? We know we need to do it. When are we going to do it? We don't need to use the deadline. We could go through the regular order. Congress could pass bills. They could have conferences between the House and Senate. The president could be engaged. I mean, he's good at campaigning...

STEPHANOPOULOS: By the end of February?

MCCONNELL: ... we know that. Sure. Yeah. I mean, we can do things very quickly. Look, these are not new issues. These are not new issues. We know -- and we've known for quite some time -- that we had all of these issues in front of us. Waiting until the last minute is no way to run the government. We ought to be engaging in it now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but -- but the deadlines are approaching. And I think the president has said he's willing to engage in more discussions over the sequester and the government shutdown, but that would also include new revenues. You say that the tax debate is over.

MCCONNELL: Oh, yeah, the tax -- the revenue -- the tax issue is finished, over, completed. That's behind us. Now the question is, what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and our future? And that's our spending addiction. It's time to confront it. The president surely knows that. I mean, he has mentioned it both publicly and privately. The time to confront it is now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But in the last year, Senator...

MCCONNELL: And we ought to engage...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me -- let me just interrupt you there. In the last year under the Budget Control Act, the Congress actually cut $1.5 trillion in spending. That's more than was raised in revenue over this last fiscal cliff deal. So are you saying that any discussion of revenue is completely off the table going forward? You will not accept any new revenues in any new deal?

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